I was so sad on Monday morning to find that Arwin, a Crimson Wing parrot parakeet had died. To commemorate her life and explain why her death means so much to me, I'd like to share the full story of how she came to Pandemonium Aviaries and what she taught me...
The search for a Friend for Arwin
By: Michele Raffin
Arwin, a female Crimson Wing parrot arrived at Pandemonium in the company of a male Rosella. Both were Australian birds of a similar size. They had shared a small cage for several years. Even though they are different species, cross species bonding is not unusual. Birds need company. The saying,”If you can’t find the one you love, love the one you’re with,” seems to hold true for birds. Faced with the choice between being alone or having someone who will preen the back and head feathers that are unreachable otherwise, many birds choose the latter.
I put Arwin and Fawks, the Rosella, in the same quarantine aviary. They coexisted without fighting, but they were clearly not friends. Once I got to know them, I understood why.
Arwin looks and acts like an avian Grace Kelly. From her graceful posture to her dainty eating habits, she is all elegance. Fawks, on the other, looks as if he’s come straight from the Outback. If he could speak, you’d expect the first words out of his mouth to be “Pass me a beer, mate.” Then he’d probably break wind followed by a grunt to convey his satisfaction with the act.
When their six week quarantine period was over, I decided to move them to the Last Aviary. This is not only Pandemonium’s largest aviary, but is also home to many of our Australian birds. I put them in a carrier, brought them to the Last Aviary and opened the carrier door wide.
Fawks immediately flew to highest perch in the 24-foot aviary, surveyed the landscape and then stretched his wings in a show of pleasure at being sprung from confinement. Arwin, meanwhile, didn’t even give the place a once over. She refused to leave the carrier no matter how much I urged her to do so. I finally lost patience, picked her up and put her down on the soil floor. She shot me a look which conveyed her distaste. It was as if she said, “This floor is filthy. Do you really expect me to walk on it?”
When I checked back 45 minutes later she was still standing in the same spot, visibly out of her element. “Okay, Arwin. We’ll give this a shot some other day,” I told her. We both knew that I was saying this only to save face.
“She’s too shy for the Last Aviary,” I told Tom after my third failed attempt to convince Arwin that the Last Aviary was prime real estate.
“Then find somewhere else for her,” he responded.
“It’s not that simple,” I countered. “I’m going to have to find someone, not somewhere, for her. She needs a companion.”
Most birds are social animals. Hand raised birds like Arwin see their humans as part of their flocks. However, I had neither the time nor the desire to be a companion to a bird. I resolved to find a Crimson Wing parakeet of either sex to keep Arwin company.
I didn’t expect the search for a friend for Arwin to be especially difficult. When I first got her, I had researched the husbandry needs of Crimson Wing Parakeets and had gotten the impression that these birds, while no longer plentiful in their native land, were not especially rare. I have since learned that this data, like a lot of the statistics pertaining to status in the wild, is unreliable. No one really knows with any accuracy the real numbers of birds in their natural habitat.
Regardless of how prevalent or rare Crimson Wings are in the wild, it became very clear to me early on in my search that they are no longer well represented in aviculture. When I called breeders to ask if they had an excess bird to sell to me, more often than not, I was answered with a request to purchase Arwin. Naturally, I refused. To my amazement, even hard-nosed breeders who usually don’t negotiate either raised their offering price or offered to give me in trade coveted birds that I had previously been told they didn’t have.
To be continued...